Every 3 February is celebrated as Martyrs’ Day in São Tomé and Príncipe, to remember those soldiers and freedom fighters who lost their lives in the struggle for independence in the decades leading up to 1975.
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After what is now São Tomé and Príncipe was discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the 1500’s, the islands soon became a centre of the slave trade and a place where oppression and hardship were commonplace for plantation laborers.
Over the years, discontent and a desire for independence grew, until riots broke out in 1953 that led to violence and bloodshed. A liberation movement was formed in the late 1950’s, but it wasn’t until 1975, when the government in Portugal itself was overthrown, that Portuguese rule in São Tomé and Príncipe finally came to an end.
On 3 February, the people of now-free São Tomé and Príncipe take the time to honour the memory of those who bought their precious freedom with their very blood.